Student Spotlight: Cecily Paldino

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Cecily Paldino / Photo: Ally Colton Cecily Paldino is a senior at Iowa State University studying Anthropology and Criminal Justice Studies.  She is involved on campus in many ways both academically and socially.  Cecily is a George Washington Carver Scholar, the ISU Anthropology Club Publicity/Social Events Director, a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, and an assistant student archivist for the Parks Library Special Collections department.

Cecily has always been a student within the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, but anthropology has not always been her major.  Originally, this future anthropologist wanted to be a journalist.

Cecily in Parks Library / Photo: Colton

“During my freshman year, I went through a lot of crazy changes,” said Cecily in an interview.  “First off, I moved to Ames, Iowa all the way from San Diego, Cali., which was a huge tilt to my world.  So, my views on what I really wanted to study, as well as what truly interested me, changed.  I found anthropology to be exactly what I was looking for through my Intro to Cultural Anthropology course (ANTHR 201) with Dr. Viatori.  After much research on anthropology and the department, I made the switch from journalism, and I’ve managed to delve deeper into my passion for anthropology and the study of the human skeletal system and forensics.”

Thanks to an intro course in anthropology, and the help of the Liberal Arts & Sciences college website, Cecily officially changed her major.

“The LAS college offers much information on each and every program within the school.  It was bewildering to be able to look at the anthropology department and be able to make such a huge, life-changing decision from a simple web page.”

Since becoming an anthropology major, Cecily has taken numerous classes on the subject, several from her favorite professor, Dr. Jill Pruetz.

“Her passion for primatology and her research motivates me every second of every day to not only work extremely hard in my studies, but also to find my own passion in anthropology that is all consuming in the best way,” said Cecily in regards to Dr. Pruetz.

Cecily in Costa Rica

While her classes and professors helped show Cecily just how much passion she holds for anthropology, they were not alone.  For three weeks during the summer of 2014, Cecily embarked on a field research study on mantled howling monkeys in the Limón province of Costa Rica under the instruction of notable primatologist and Iowa State University professor, Dr. Jill Pruetz.  Even though Cecily’s major studies focus on biological anthropology and not primatology, she wanted to participate in this opportunity to gain field experience.

“To be an anthropologist, whether cultural, biological, archaeology or linguistics, there must be a sense of flexibility and capability to adapt to different cultures and ways of life,” said Cecily when asked about her trip.  “In Costa Rica, the style of living is drastically different than the United States of America, and I am proud to say that it changed me as a human being – for the better.  There are common things that we expect here in the United States that we did not have in Costa Rica, such as generally harmless animals, hot showers, Internet and phone service, and mirrors.”

Cecily studying monkeys in Costa Rica

Cecily learned a lot, not only about howling monkeys, but also about a different culture and way of life.  Upon her return to the United States, she experienced a great culture shock that she believes benefited her almost as much as the trip itself.

“It not only made me grateful for what I have access to here in the United States, but it also made me appreciate the simplistic lifestyle that Costa Rican’s have,” she said.  “Of course, living in the rainforest has its own specific challenges, but it was an experience that I would never take back, and I would most definitely do it again if given the opportunity.”

Now, almost halfway through her senior year, Cecily is not only reflecting on the experiences Iowa State has given her, but she is also preparing for the future.  After graduation in the spring, she plans to pursue her Masters/Doctorates in human osteology and forensic anthropology.  With the help of her background at Iowa State, Cecily hopes to one day go into human rights and eventually work under organizations such as the Physicians for Human Rights.

Posted by: Jane Morrison